I Won’t Date People With Right-Wing Views
Intolerance, and the Politics of Liking
Have you ever found someone really attractive, and then you started talking to them, and they ended up saying something that instantly made your sex drive drop to the floor? Well, I have. Most of the times, it’s because of sheer stupidity. Other times though, it will be because I’ll realise they’re reactionary.
A few years back, I was discussing politics with a friend of mine at a party. At some point, I noted that I couldn’t date or be close friends with conservative people. I could act friendly with them, I could even enjoy their company, and like them. However, I couldn’t develop a close relationship with them. While saying this, I was overheard by a supporter of the Front National. They’re a French far-right historical extremist party, which of course is getting more and more popular these days. This girl was indignant. She called me intolerant. Now, we’ll discuss whether she was wrong or not. But being called intolerant by someone from the FN is not something you let go without arguing. It’s kind of like being called ignorant by an alt-right Trump supporter after he’s just finished ranting about the ‘fake news media’.
Of course, we ended up debating for some time. Soon enough, we had moved topics to cover general intolerance. She unsurprisingly told me how horrible it was that some French (white) kids now had to eat ‘halal’ in school so that Muslim children could eat meat at lunch. If you’re wondering, it tastes the same. And then she complained about reverse racism and her extensive experience with it. The poor girl had been called a ‘babtou’. That word is popular lingo for ‘toubab’, a West African word whose literal definition is ‘white person’. For some white people, being called white is somehow violent enough that it qualifies as a racist slur.
Anyway, it got a bit heated at some points, and I told her « See? We couldn’t be friends! I can talk to you here, I can be respectful of you as a person, but let’s agree we could never be friends! » She agreed that the two of us wouldn’t be friends, but she still thought that I was somehow discriminating against people like her.
Over the years, however, I haven’t moved much in this regard. I can tell you I still have no close friends that are right-wing, and I haven’t dated anyone that was. I might have gone on a few dates with a centrist. I do have buddies that are conservatives, I’ve had colleagues that were, I have a family member that is, but that’s it. All my close friends either don’t vote or care about politics, or they support the left. And it’s not because I met people, started getting close to them, and then blew them off for being conservatives.
The truth is, the people I get along with easily are the ones that aren’t conservatives. I don’t even get to the ‘discriminating’ part, the selection is made for me in who I end up bonding with.
And it’s not all because I don’t want to be friends with right-wing people. I’m pretty sure they don’t want to be friends with me either.
But it’s ended up becoming a joke. A friend tells me some friends of hers will be there tonight, but she’s not sure I’ll like them, I ask: ‘Why? Are they right-wing?’ Or I find a guy cute, and then a friend laughs and tells me ‘You know, he voted for Marine Le Pen’ (she’s the leader of the FN) and I laugh with her. But you can be damn sure there’s nothing cute about him anymore in my mind.
Politics Are Just Too Important
Often enough though, I’ll mention this, and some people won’t get it. They’ll tell me about their relationships with people that didn’t share their views. They’ll say in the end, it doesn’t matter. And I agree that for most people, it won’t be a problem. I understand that.
The difference is, for a lot of people politics is about opinions. It’s a thought exercise. One person thinks of the world this way, another thinks about it a different way, and they debate about it. And they’ll agree to disagree on how to make it better. That’s not how I see politics. I see politics as something that impacts people’s lives every day.
Mine, not as much as others. I mean, political decisions and discourse do impact my life, but it’s all relative. Some people are more vulnerable to political decisions than I am. Minorities. Transgender people. People in poverty. Migrants mistreated by police. I could go on and on. But there are people at the end of those thoughts, whose lives are impacted by our political ideas.
Politics isn’t all philosophical and hypothetical. It would be if you were playing Devil’s Advocate. But when those are your real views, and you share them with people, and you vote according to them, then they become part of a reality. They have consequences.
Let’s say you think there are too many immigrants in the country and we can’t welcome everyone, and that factors in your vote. It will eventually lead to people being treated inhumanely at our borders. If you share those opinions a lot, you can also make legal immigrants and children of immigrants inside our borders feel unwelcome. And you’ll add to the already painful experience of immigration.
Or let’s say you think people who succeed do because of merit, and there’s nothing indecent with people earning millions when their employees are barely making ends meet. And that the system is fair, that we’re all given the same chances. Let’s say you don’t believe some people have to overcome way more obstacles than others and are much less likely to succeed. You’re saying the people who don’t succeed don’t deserve to, and you’re legitimising their exploitation and their everyday experience of poverty. It’s not only for the sake of argument.
I’m one of those people that thinks everything is political. It’s not about feminism especially, I’ll see everything from a political angle. And chances are if I have a lively discussion with someone, they will hear my political views in the first ten minutes. Because that’s where my mind goes. I won’t mention it in a confrontational way — unless I’m reacting to some dreadful comment. But I’ll criticise something about current politics, or make an absurd political joke.
And I’m pretty sure for some people, that was determinant in their opinion of me. But that’s fine.
If you don’t like me because of my politics, go ahead. Do the filtering yourself. I won’t be offended, at all. I’m not the kind of people that would shout that my opinion is my fundamental right, and then complain that people judge me because of it. Please judge me for my political views.
Now, Is It Intolerance?
I used to think it was. I would say I was intolerant about intolerance. But, that’s not what intolerance is, so short answer? No. Longer answer? Being selective or judgemental about political views is not the same as being intolerant about race. Or gender identity, or sexual orientation, or religion, or disability, or body type, or class even. I’m not intolerant about who you are, I’m judgemental about how you think. How you choose to think.
Let’s turn things around. If you are “unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights” with me because I’m a woman, that’s intolerance. If you don’t like me because I’m a feminist, that’s not intolerance.
If you think I shouldn’t be able to express my political views because I’m a woman, that’s intolerance. If I’m OK (although unenthusiastic) with you having the right to hold or express reactionary views, only I do my best not to hear them, that’s not intolerance.
We all have criteria that matter in choosing the people around us. It’s not always conscious, but we have things we like in other people and that we will be looking for. Some might enjoy the presence of extroverts. Or they’d rather be with introverts. Others will particularly like people that are genuinely kind and generous. Or people that are patient, and listen attentively. But some people might also like the impatient, turbulent kind that are loud and entertaining. We look for different things. I look for people who have the same values as I do. People who will have a similar vision.
I don’t even do it consciously. Last week, my best friend came with me at an event, and we talked with a girl I knew a bit already while we were there. When we got out, she told me « It feels good to meet new people who think like I do, for once. » And it does.
It’s not so much that I absolutely refuse to date or be close to anyone that has right-wing, conservative views. But I generally won’t be attracted to them, so that’s a big thing to overcome. And I know something will be missing. Politics and political humour is often one of the ways I will bond with someone. I can bond with people in other ways, of course. But it will mean I won’t be able to share an essential part of my life with them, at least not the same way.
So, why bother?